Julie Myerson column

Sunday night: we're getting ready to go out to dinner. "Should I shave?" - Jonathan rubs his chin.

"They expect it."

"I won't then."

I look at him. "I like you better when you shave." He sighs and plugs in his shaver in a beleaguered way. "But don't empty your stubble all over the basin."

Jacob comes in, sniffing his discarded underpants. His tummy and back are covered in livid, picture-book spots. I grab him; he wriggles.

"Jacob's got some funny spots," I call to Jonathan over the noise of the shaver.


"Can I get the torch and go and see how the squirrel is?" asks Jacob.

There's a squirrel huddled under bricks in our yard. It fell out of an upstairs window, the third squirrel in a year to get stuck in our chimney.

For more than an hour we waited by the opened fireplace, wafting a jar of peanut butter. But when the animal emerged, it just skittered around, crazed and shrieking, blinded by the sudden noon of the sunlight. I screamed.

"It's going to jump at my throat!"

"Don't be a moron."

Sweating, Jonathan trapped it under a plastic seaside bucket and then slid a piece of cardboard underneath. We manoeuvred the frantic, squawking rodent to the open window. We were aiming for the extension roof just below but we pulled our hands away too quickly and, well ...

"He's just sitting there breathing," Jacob comes back upstairs, panting.

"If it's injured we should kill it," I mutter to Jonathan.

"Be my guest." He knocks his razor against the side of the basin - snowfall of banned stubble. He doesn't rinse the basin.

The dinner's in Maida Vale. The sky's still flushed, the birds still loud, flesh-coloured blossom stacked waxily above our heads. "Oh," I say, "I love that smell."

"What smell? I can't smell anything."

At dinner, a big man in a brown linen suit confides in me that he works for MI5. "What? You actually work in that amazing Lego building at Vauxhall? What's it like inside?"

"Well," he pauses, "It's actually very dark."

"Dark! But you can still work?"

"Just about. But then there's the white noise."


"So that no one can bug what anyone's saying - a security measure."

I gasp.

"But if you need to talk to someone you put on special headphones, blot it out."

"Julie," says Jonathan, "You're too gullible."

We argue about the homeless, Dennis Potter's life work, why banks loan money to small businesses, whether a friend's small business will eventually go bust, and whether the River Cafe Cook Book is any good for vegetarians.

Then we drive back through the centre of London, through a landscape of people eating and singing and throwing up and lolling in each other's arms and bedding down in corrugated cardboard beneath cashpoint machines.

A car's windscreen lies in icy blue crumbs on the pavement. An ambulance wails past, slick car ads are illuminated on billboards, litter floats in hopeless circles, caught in a wind trap.

"I knew he was kidding," I tell Jonathan, "About MI5. I was just playing along."

"Like hell you were."

I loll into sleep thinking of the murky green darkness of the Thames caressing the front of the MI5 building.

Next day, Emily-down-the-road finds the squirrel in her daughter's treehouse and takes it to the vet's. "The vet's?"

Jonathan shrugs. "I told her as far as I'm concerned it's a rat with a tail and if it even sniffs our chimney again, it's history."

"You're a hard man. There are people who really love animals and Emily's one of them. I've seen her almost in tears about the cats."

Exhausted and hungover, I take all the children and queue for two hours at the overheated health centre to see a locum about Jacob's spots. I might as well not have bothered.

"Rash," his command of English is similar to my grasp of the security services. He leans back, unshaven, spots of food solidified on his clothes.

"I just want to know if it's OK to send him to school. He's had chickenpox and German measles already, you see."

The man yawns, "You - surely - no consider send child to school with rash?"

I stiffen, "It depends - with an allergic rash, probably, yes."

The brown carpet in the room smells of skin and pee and Raphael and Chloe are rolling and fighting on it, near breaking point after two hours in a hot waiting room. "Stop it now!" my voice soars unattractively as I try to prise them apart. "I have to talk to the doctor!"

The man throws up his hands, "He stay off school, that is all!"

"But he's perfectly well -"

"I give you some cream, for dry skin."

"You don't keep a child off school with dry skin -"

"Raphael," says Chloe with a squirm in her voice, "Pull down my knickers." (He does.) "Stick your finger up my bum." (He does, sniffs it.)

"Right, OK," I yank them by their collars, "that's it, we're going, thank you, doctor, for your time."

On the pavement, I line them up, shout at them, then shoo them into the car. In front of us there's a skip containing a stained and rain-sodden mattress and a dead Christmas tree.

"I feel I want to bite someone," observes Jacob as we sit in devastated silence.

"I feel I want to bite the doctor," I admit.

By the time we've all stopped laughing, it's begun to rain.

Suggested Topics
The sun rises over St Andrews golf course, but will it be a new dawn for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club?
sportAnd it's Yes to women (at the R&A)
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo

Life and Style

ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Andros Townsend is challenged by Vladimir Volkov
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

    Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

    Email Designer

    £30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

    Psychology Teacher

    £110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

    Food Technology Teacher

    £85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week